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Why TUI’s ‘free holiday change’ could cost you hundreds of pounds

TUI has promised to waive its fees for customers who want to postpone their holidays this year due to Covid, but TUI’s ‘free holiday change’ promise isn’t necessarily as good as it seems.

It’s true that many TUI customers have been able to change their holidays free of charge. Some have even saved money if their new dates were cheaper. But many customers have been charged hundreds of pounds to postpone their holidays until next year.

After seeing a number of complaints on social media, I contacted the TUI press office to find out why some customers are being charged to change their holidays when it has promised free changes.


Who can change a TUI holiday fee-free?

Not all customers qualify for TUI’s offer of fee-free changes. It depends when you booked and when you’re due to travel.

TUI says anyone due to travel before 30 April 2021 can change their holiday for free up to 21 days before departure.

Anyone travelling in May can change for free as long as they do so at least 28 days before departure.

But if you’re due to travel after 30 April up to 31 October you can only change for free up to three weeks before departure if you booked between 23 and 30 November or between 22 December and 9 February.

If you book after 10 February for travel between 1 June and 31 October you can change fee-free up to 28 days before departure.




Why are customers who qualify for fee-free changes being charged extra?

Some customers who are due to travel in April or May say they’ve been quoted hundreds of pounds to postpone their holidays until 2022.

This is because although TUI is waiving its amendment fees, customers must pay the difference if the cost of the holiday has gone up.

On the plus side, TUI will refund the difference if the new holiday is cheaper.

But one customer told me she was quoted an extra £500 to move her May family holiday to next year even though it was advertised on TUI’s website for £200 less.

TUI’s press office explained that this is because it sometimes has ‘exclusive’ online discounts which aren’t available to customers booking – or changing – their holidays over the phone.

The solution is to use the Manage My Booking portal to change your booking. If you do, you’ll be charged the online price.


But there’s a catch…

Not all TUI customers are able to use the Manage My Booking portal to change their holidays.

If you booked online or on the TUI or First Choice apps and your flights are with TUI Airways you should be fine to do so.

But if you booked in store or your flight is with a non-TUI airline or you’ve added parking, insurance or an airport hotel to your booking you’ll have to call to change it. And then you might not get the cheaper online price.


Should you change your TUI booking now?

Lots of people seem to have decided they no longer want the holiday they’ve booked this year, but they don’t know whether to re-book or wait for TUI to cancel and refund them.

Unfortunately, TUI does seem to have a policy of waiting as long as possible before letting customers know if their holidays are going ahead, probably in the hope that the uncertainty will encourage them to re-book before it cancels.  It’s like paying a game of ‘who will blink first’.

At the moment TUI has only cancelled departures to most destinations up to 7 March but it does seem highly likely there’ll be a lot more cancellations, even after lockdown restrictions are lifted.



Of course, if you’re certain you don’t want to take the holiday and you’re worried it will go ahead, you should probably try to switch now. If you can’t do it online and you’re quoted more to move it over the phone, try calling back another time and you might get a more helpful sales agent!


Linsey McNeill

A journalist and travel writer of 35 years' standing, a once-a-week yogi, terrible skier and out-of-order mum to 2 teens. Previously Editor of TravelMole.com, bylines also include The Telegraph, The Times, The Observer, the London Evening Standard, Which? and The South China Morning Post.

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